Saturday, May 19, 2012

New Quebec bill sparks more protests and condemnation

New emergency legislation in Quebec designed to end the student protests ended up causing protests itself. There were protests against the legislation overnight (May 18) in Montreal involving about 10,000 people.

Bill 78 sets strict rules for public demonstrations and there are heavy fines for violations. Legal experts, union leaders, civil rights groups and of course student groups have all criticized the bill. Even a well known retired judge Gomery has weighed in. See this article.

The president of a Quebec teacher's union Pierre Saint-Germain said:

"I'll tell you, frankly, that with this bludgeon law, it's becoming harder and harder for people and organizations, from students to unions, to express themselves publicly."

Le Devoir a prominent Montreal newspaper had an editorial describing the law as an abuse of power. Constitutional lawyer Julius Grey said of the bill:"What I note in this law is that there is no opening for discussion — what kind of education we want to have, is higher education a question of preparing for the job market, or a more academic question, to promote learning? There is none of that.This is simply an attempt to end a debate, to appear strong and determined."

The law has three main parts. The bill suspends the winter semester in schools where many students boycotted classes. At the same time it imposes heavy fines for anyone attempting to block anyone from accessing schools. Finally it restricts public protests.

The largest student group CLASSE vows legal action against the bill immediately. A spokesperson said:"It's one of the basis of democracy, that citizens are allowed to go [in the streets] whenever they want, wherever they want.With this law, this government is consciously breaking, destroying this fundamental right," Of course more and more there are all sorts of rules and restrictions on protests. If large enough numbers protest it may be difficult to enforce the new law. For more see this article.

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